As the reading list is quite long, we’ve divided each section into ‘featured’ readings and ‘recommended’ readings. We suggest you start with the ‘featured’ readings and supplement those with the additional ‘recommended’ readings as best suits you.

[P] = a piece that has significant suggestions about “policy” ideas for what we do to fix the current problems.

Overview of the context, problem, and opportunity


[P] For background only, see Putnam, R.D. (2015). Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis (NY: Simon and Schuster), especially pp. 31-45 for an overview of inequality in America today and pp. 226-261 for Bob’s initial thoughts about what is to be done. Book will be shared with group via mail.

Holzer, H. (2015).   “Job market polarization and U.S. worker skills: A tale of two middles.” Brookings Institution paper. LINK


Belfield, C.R., Levin, H.M., and Rosen, R. (2012). “The Economic Value of Opportunity Youth”. (pages 4-11) LINK

Holzer, H. (2015). “Higher education and workforce policy: Creating more skilled workers (and jobs for them to fill)” Brookings Institution paper. LINK   [This paper cuts across some of the more specific topics below since it discusses technical education, college/community college/etc.]

Financing/enabling higher education


[P] Kelly, A. & Goldrick-Rab, S., eds. (2014). Reinventing Financial Aid: Charting a New Course to College Affordability. Harvard Education Press, Cambridge, MA.   Introduction and Conclusion

[P]Selingo, J., Carey, K., Pennington, H., Fishman, R. and Palmer, I. (2013) “The Next Generation University.” New America Foundation paper.


Blumenstyk, Goldie. American Higher Education in Crisis?:What Everyone Needs to Know. Oxford University Press. Part 2

[P] Carnevale, Anthony P. (2010). “How Increasing College Access Is Increasing Inequality, and What to Do About It.” From Rewarding Strivers: Helping Low-Income Students Succeed in College. New York: Century Foundation. Conclusion, pp. 175-190.

[P] Goldrick-Rab, Sara and Nancy Kendall. (2014). F2CO. Redefining College Affordability: Securing America’s Future with a Free Two Year College Option. EduOptimists paper.   LINK

[P] Weissmann, J. (2013). “How Washington Could Make College Tuition Free (Without Spending a Penny More on Education)” Atlantic Monthly March 8, 2013. LINK

Revamped community colleges


Bailey, T., Jaggars, S.S. & Jenkins, D. (2015). Redesigning America’s Community Colleges (Harvard University Press. Introduction (pp. 3-20) and Conclusion (pp. 199-219).


Goldrick-Rab, Sara. (2010). “Challenges and Opportunities for Improving Community College Student Success.” Review of Educational Research 80(3):437-469.

[P] MRDC. (2014). “New Study Shows CUNY’s ASAP Program Boosts Two-Year Graduation Rate of Community College Students Who Need Remedial Education.” LINK

Strengthened vocational education/apprenticeships/Portable, stackable credentials


Austin, J.T., Mellow, G.O., Rosin, M., and Seltzer, M. (2012). “Portable, Stackable Credentials: A New Education Model for Industry-Specific Career Pathways”. McGraw-Hill Research Foundation paper.   LINK

Bailey, Thomas. (1993). “”Can Youth Apprenticeship Thrive in the US?” Educational Researcher 22(3):4-10.

Newman, K. and Winston , H. (2015). Learning to Labor in the 21st Century. (draft) Introduction and Chapter 8.


[P] Harvard School of Graduate Education. (2011). Pathways to Prosperity: Meeting the Challenge of Preparing Young Americans for the 21st Century. Harvard School of Graduate Education. Pages 9-37.  LINK

[P] Kemple, J. 2008. “Career Academies: Long-Term Impacts on Work, Education, and Transitions to Adulthood”. Press summary of MDRC Report.   LINK

[P] Lerman, R. (2014) “Expanding Apprenticeship Opportunities in the United States”. Hamilton Project. LINK

[P] McConnell, S., Perez-Johnson, I. and Berk, J. (2014). “Providing Disadvantaged Workers with Skills to Succeed in the Labor Market.” Abstract. Hamilton Project report. Brookings Institution. LINK

[P] Olinsky, B. and Ayres, S. (2013). “Training for Success: A Policy to Expand Apprenticeships in the United States.” Center for American Progress. LINK

[P] Wiegand, A. (2015). “Adapting to Local Context: Findings from the YouthBuild Evaluation Implementation Study.” MDRC Publication.   LINK

Localized job training tied to local economic conditions and skills gaps


[P] Kochan, T., Finegold, D. and Osterman, P. (2012). “Who Can Fix the ‘Middle-Skills’ Gap?” Harvard Business Review December 2012.

Other Second Chances/Incarceration reform or prison re-entry/Strategies for Opportunity Youth


Western, B. (2014). “Incarceration, Inequality, and Imagining Alternatives” The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 651(1):302-306.

[P] Sander, T. (2015). “Summary of Promising potential incarceration and re-entry reforms. Self-published.”

– 3 charts from Travis and Western NAS report. Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and Consequences. (2014). Eds. Travis, J. and Western, B. National Academies Press. Washington, DC. [Figures 2.1, 2.15, and 2.16]


[P] Bridgeland, J. and Mason-Elder, T. (2012). “National Roadmap for Opportunity Youth.” Civic Enterprises and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.   LINK

[P] Kamanetz, A. (2014). “A Former Drug Dealer Gives A Great Defense Of The Liberal Arts.” NPR Ed Blog, June 21, 2014. LINK

[P] Robinson, Nathan. (2015) “Higher Education in U.S. Prisons: A Cost-Effective Antipoverty Opportunity”. Spotlight on Poverty Commentary.   LINK